The very last hearing in the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour will be held on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at 11:00.
On May 31 there was a special hearing where both sides had to declare what, in their view, is the due sentence, according to the verdict which convicted poet Dareen Tatour both for "incitement to violence" and "support for a terrorist organization".
The prosecutor, unexpectedly, presented her arguments in writing to the court. At the time we couldn't even know what she was asking for. Defense lawyer Gaby Lasky was given a short time to read the prosecution's claims and respond. When she started talking we learned from what she said that prosecutor claimed that Dareen should be sent to prison for a period between 15 and 26 months. Lasky, of course, said that Dareen should not be sent to prison at all.
The judge set the date for announcing the sentencing to June 24m at 11:00.
If anyone had any hope that judge Bambiliya will give any weight to the strong case of the defense or to the protests of thousands around the world in defense of free speech - it all came to a brutal end today at the Nazareth court. The courtroom was full with supporters, maybe 50 of them, and this time also many journalists, photographers and TV crews. The judge came in only after the media was allowed to take pictures in the courtroom. She sat on her high bench, said that the verdict is long, and that she would read only some of it. She read in a low voice and people complained that they can't hear. She usually uses a mike - but not today. The guards wanted to throw out of the court the people that complained - but the judge requested them not to do it.
It all took hardly a few minutes, The only sentence that could be heard clearly was when the judge cited some old court ruling about the importance of the freedom of expression. Soon she concluded: "I decided to convict..." Then she went on in a very low voice to name the articles of conviction by their technical numbers, without any explanation, and soon disappeared through the back-door to her chamber.
Everybody jumped at lawyer Gaby Lasky: What? What did the judge say? Of what did she convict Dareen?
I'm not sure whether Lasky herself could hear what the judge murmured but soon she received the 52 page verdict and she could tell us all: Dareen Tatour was convicted on the two charges in the indictment, both "incitement to violence" and "support of a terrorist organization".
We stayed almost another hour in the court's waiting hall. Everybody was shocked and angry and trying to console Dareen, who was laughing and saying "I never expected justice from an Israeli court."
Apparently the judge wanted some more time to write her conclusions - so today (April 18) she informed Dareen's lawyer, Gaby Lasky, that the verdict will be postponed - and will be finally announced on May 3, at 11:00.
Dareen is already two years and a half under detention... She was held initially for three months in different Israeli prisons and since then under house arrest. In the parallel legal process concerning Dareen’s detention, the last request by attorney Lasky to abolish her house arrest was refused on December 4, 2017.
On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police and border guards in a pre-dawn raid on her house in Reineh, near Nazareth. She was held in the Jelemeh detention center and interrogated by officers of the Nazareth station. All her interrogations were about her publications in social media and her political activity.
On November 2, 2015, she was indicted in the Magistrates’ Court in Nazareth for “incitement to violence” and “support of a terrorist organization”.
The indictment is all based on three publications by Tatour:
1) The poem “Resist My People, Resist Them” – which Tatour published in her Youtube channel and Facebook page. A distorted Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification in translation or literature, is fully cited in the indictment document.
2) A Facebook post mentioning that Islamic Jihad called for an intifada in the West Bank and later contains a call for intifada within the green line to support Muslim’s rights to pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque is the base for the accusation of “supporting a terrorist organization”. Clearly the reference to Islamic Jihad is just citing a news item and Tatour explained her call for intifada as a call for legitimate mass struggle.
3) The last publication mentioned in the indictment is composed of two pictures: A picture of Israa Abed (a women from Nazareth that was wrongly suspected as a terrorist attacker) lying on the floor of the Afula central bus station after she was shot by Israeli police and guards – posted as Tatour’s wallpaper on Facebook, and a small black picture with white Arabic writing “I am the next martyr”, that was her profile picture. The prosecution claims that by posting these two pictures together Tatour was inciting for violence. Tatour explained that the profile picture “I’m the next martyr” was first posted by her and by many activists after the burning alive of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu-Khdeir in Jerusalem in July 2014. It was a protest at the killing of innocent Palestinians that was reused after the murder of Kheir Hamdan by Israeli police in Kafr Kana in November 2014. And she published the picture of Israa Abed after watching a video of her shooting and being sure that she was shot even though she didn’t attack anyone – a claim currently accepted by the Israeli authorities.
In the first hearing of the trial, on April 13, 2016, the prosecutor chose to start presenting her case with the Hebrew translation of the “Resist” poem. For this purpose she brought the police translator, Warrant Officer Nissim Bishara. The veteran policeman testified in court that his qualification for translating the poem was his study of literature in high school and his love for the Arab language.
Before the second hearing on May 5, 2016, there was a solidarity vigil with Tatour in front of the Nazareth court. As a result there was more media attention and Haaretz wrote about the trial for the first time (in English and Hebrew).
Because of the vigil, many people, including some Arab Knesset members, came to attend the hearing. The judge didn’t like it and held the hearing beyond closed doors.
On the 3rd hearing on July 17, 2016, the prosecutor brought as witnesses Tatour’s best friend Samira and her young brother Ahmad to prove that her Facebook page belongs to her – a fact that she herself testified to repeatedly in her interrogations in the police.
The prosecutor also brought as a witness Rami Amer from Kafr Qasim, one of the organizers of the yearly commemoration of the Kafr Qasim massacre. They brought him to witness how and why he invited Tatour to read from her poems in the commemoration ceremony. Initially Tatour was interrogated about her participation in this commemoration as part of the accusations against her. Later the prosecutor tried to use it to prove that she is a famous poet, and for this reason her incitement constitutes severe danger to state security. In the court Amer explained that “the fact that I know her as a poet doesn’t mean that she is a known poet”.
For this hearing Tatour’s lawyer Abed Fahoum made the not-so-common effort to go over the video that documented her interrogation by Officer Samer Khalil. He confronted the prosecutor witness with big gaps between what was recorded on the video and what was written in the interrogation’s protocol.
Finally the video proved, and the officer had to admit, that Tatour was forced to sign the protocol (written by Khalil in Hebrew, even though the interrogation was held in Arabic), without being allowed to read it, as she explicitly requested to do.
With this testimony the prosecution rested her case.
Tatour had to start her testimony on the same day, but the court failed to find a translator.
On November 17 the trial resume and Tatour had new lawyers, Gaby Lasky from Tel Aviv, accompanied by Nery Ramati from her office.
In her testimony Tatour admitted to posting all the publications that were attributed to her in their original Arabic form, but explained that the police translation distorted her words and that the police and prosecution distorted their meaning. She explained how all her publications were legitimate expression of protest against the crimes of the Israeli occupation and the settlers, and that all her calls for struggle are not meant to incite violence.
In three long sessions of counter interrogation the prosecutor Alina Hardak grilled Tatour again and again about many details from her publications, her interrogations in the police, other posts on her Facebook page and even comments by other people on her page. She tried to mislead Tatour, enter words to her mouth and find contradictions in her explanations – but couldn’t divert Tatour from her simple and sincere explanation of her publications.
On March 19, 2017, the defense presented two expert witnesses, Professor Nissim Calderon and Dr. Yoni Mendel.
Professor Calderon, an expert in Hebrew literature, explained how the most famous Hebrew poets expressed furious protest under Tsarist Russia and the British Mandate in Palestine, and were never prosecuted by these undemocratic regimes like Tatour is now targeted by Israel.
Dr. Mendel presented his own translation to Hebrew of the “Resist” poem and explained how the police translation distorted its meaning.
They were both grilled in counter interrogation by the prosecutor, trying to prove that they were not objective, that Tatour was not a poet and that the Palestinians were not living under occupation.
This counter interrogation produced many surrealistic dialogues that were cited in many articles and some of it has even constituted the text of a short play that was shown in the Yaffa Theater in a solidarity event with Tatour on August 30, 2017.
On March 28 the defense brought as a witness a police officer, who presented to the court a statistical report about interrogations and indictments concerning incitement. The defense claimed that these statistics prove that the enforcement of the incitement law is one-sided against Arabs, ignoring severe Anti-Arab incitement by Jewish Israelis.
The defense rested its case, but then the prosecution surprised everybody with a request to present more evidence.
The trial of poet Dareen Tatour was resumed in Nazareth Magistrate's Court on Thursday, April 27, at 12:00, before Judge Adi Bambiliya.
In this hearing the last prosecution witness testified, after all defense witnesses were heard in March. The witness was a lawyer who advised Tatour on the first day of her detention, in October 2015. As Tatour mentioned his advice in her testimony, the prosecutor took the rare step to force the lawyer to testify for the prosecution in order to disproof Tatour’s words. In the court the lawyer, Hussam Mow’ed, didn’t remember any details from his meeting with Tatour, only how shocked he was at her situation after being dragged from bed to the police station at the middle of the night. Anyway, with this nonsense the prosecutor prolonged the trial and added another full month to Tatour’s house detention. This had to be the last hearing before the verdict. The judge gave each of the sides 45 days to prepare written summaries. She didn’t set a date for herself for giving the verdict, saying that she will set a date for the verdict only after she will have the summaries, “as they are likely to be delayed anyway”.
After some delays, on June 26 the prosecutor has already presented her written 43 pages summary, which repeats and stresses furiously all the original accusations. She even claims that the big differences between the translation of the poem that was done by an unqualified policeman and the professional translation presented by the defense prove that the defense’s translation is not reliable!
The defense lawyer, Gaby Lasky, requested to present new evidence that disprove some of the claims of the prosecution and establish the case for discriminative enforcement. Only when these issues will be resolved we will have a new date for the verdict.
The immediate result for Dareen Tatour of these delays is that her house detention – to which she was subjected “until the end of legal proceedings” – is prolonged even more. This extended period of confinement and suffering will not be reduced from the “punishment” (up to 8 years imprisonment) that might be imposed on her by the court at the end of the trial.
Lawyer friends tell me that this is nothing special against Dareen. Such delays are daily practice of the courts and many of the accused pay the price... Not much of condolences.
Defense attorney Haya Abu Warda (from Lasky’s office) presented two new pieces of evidence:
The first was an image from Dareen Tatour’s Facebook page proving that the status “I am the next martyr” was first published on July 2014, just after the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, exactly as Dareen testified. In these circumstances it is clear that Dareen meant to say that any of us may be an innocent victim. The prosecution claimed over the trial that the status was first published in October 2015, in support of “the third intifada”.
The prosecution refused to the acceptance of the image without counter-interrogating either Dareen herself or her lawyer as witnesses. Abu Warda refused to allow any new interrogation of Dareen or putting herself as witness in the case and claimed that the image is like any document that doesn’t require a special witness to present. The judge sided with the prosecution and refused to accept the evidence.
The second piece of evidence was a video from the Facebook page of Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister. On September 3rd, 2017, Regev published the video with Dareen’s poem “Resist, My People, Resist them”, the same video that Dareen is accused of incitement for publishing. Regev only added a new distorted Hebrew translation of the poem and the question “where was this video displayed?”
By presenting this video, which was already viewed more than 75 thousand times on Regev’s page, the defense supports the claim of discriminatory law enforcement. According to the indictment and the prosecutions position in the court, the fact that Dareen published this video constituted a real danger of causing violence. The indictment even specifies that the video was viewed by 153 people on Dareen’s youtube site before her detention. But the prosecution didn’t act to prevent Regev from publishing the same video to a much bigger audience.
The prosecution agreed to the presentation of this video to the court, on condition that it will be allowed to present 3 more videos from Regev’s Facebook page. Apparently they believe that the anti-Arab incitement on Regev’s page balances the “danger” of publishing Dareen’s video…
When the testimonies stage came to an end, the prosecutor requested to move to oral summaries, while the defense insisted on its right to submit written summaries. When the judge accepted the defense’s request, the prosecutor requested the opportunity to respond to the defense summaries. She explained that during verbal summaries she could interrupt the defense’s statement, which would not be possible during written summaries. The judge ignored this unusual request.
On April 27 the Judge ordered the two sides to present written summaries, granting 45 days to each of them. The prosecution has already presented summaries (after some delays) but the defense requested to present new evidence – a request that was heard on November 15 (see below). Because of the additional evidence, the judge has scheduled a round of oral summaries to be heard on December 28, after the written summaries are submitted.
On December 28 the defense didn’t present the written summaries yet, but attorney Haya Abu Warda suggested that, as the extra oral summaries are related to the additional evidence, they will be heard anyway. The prosecutor returned to her initial claim that the main purpose of the extra summaries is to allow her to relate to the defense summaries. The judge agreed and postponed the oral summaries to January 28, 2018. The defense protested at the idea that the prosecution should be given the right to answer the defense summaries.
Breaking: Hopefully the last delay. Oral summaries in the trial of poet Dareen Tatour now set for Sunday, February 18, at 8:30 am, in the Nazareth court.
Prosecutor asked for, and received, more time to study the defense written summaries before oral summaries. The hearing was set for February 15 (and later postponed to the 18th), after the designated hearing for January 28 was abolished. Dareen's house arrest was automatically extended due to these delays...
On February 18, the prosecutor was allowed to present oral supplementary summaries, in response to the written summary of the defense and some new evidence. Detailed report about this 12th hearing was published in +972 and in Free Haifa Extra. A Hebrew report may be found in Local Call and Haifa Ha-Hofshit. Basically the prosecution repeated the same slander that was already presented over so many hearings, misinterpreting Tatour’s poetry to fit its idea fix that any type of Palestinian resistance to the occupation is terrorism.
There was some heated confrontation about the authority of the prosecution to present the indictment, infringing the basic right for freedom of expression. There was also a rare dialog between the judge and the audience, with the court for the first time semi-officially “recognizing” the presence of the dedicated group of the poet’s supporters.
As the prosecution brought new legal materials, including different court rulings and protocols from the Knesset that are supposed to clarify the intention behind the relevant articles of the law, defense attorney Gaby Lasky requested more time to study those materials and respond in writing.
Only after her response will be presented to the court (and hoping that the judge will not let extra time for the prosecution for another response), the judge is expected to set a date for the verdict.